Yesterday I wrote about the first two pitfalls that frequently occur when one works at home. Loneliness and lack of motivation may be the first things you notice, but after a while a couple more issues frequently creep up.
Burnout is a risk in any job, no matter where you go to do it. However, when you work in an office, or store or whatever, you get to come home at the end of the day and try to relax until tomorrow. When you work at home, you never leave work. This can lead to killing yourself by trying to work as much as humanly possible, as well as feeling guilty about what time you do take away from work to relax. If you are stressed out about getting something finished, it can be extremely difficult to sit and relax after dinner, knowing that you could be just over there on the other side of the room, getting more work done. You forget that downtime is important for both your sanity and the longevity of your work at home situation. I think of it like a race car driver refusing to make a pit stop because he/she doesn’t want to lose the time. You may gain a few seconds by skipping the pit, but then ultimately lose the race when your tires blow out on the track. Here are a few ways to avoid hitting that wall:
- Shut the door. If you have the space for a real home office, then make that the only work space in the house. When you decide you are done for the day, close your office door and don’t go back in there for anything till tomorrow. Don’t even look at the door if you can help it. Create an “out of sight, out of mind,” area so you can enjoy your evenings in peace.
- Decide on a mandatory cut-off time. If you don’t have the luxury of a bona fide home office, then I suggest declaring a daily “no work” time. It can be a fixed time when you stop working for the day or, if you don’t feel you can commit to that, a set period of at least two hours when you do absolutely nothing work-related. You will probably have to make exceptions to this rule, just like you would have to stay late at work if there was a crisis, but make sure these are exceptions to the rule – not the norm. I personally refuse to work after ten o’clock at night, unless I am so very far behind that I can’t help it, but I have added incentive to quit early. Since I work with hot glass over an open flame, the more tired I get, the more likely I am to do sloppy work and accidentally burn myself. There’s nothing like having hot glass fall into your bra twice in a half-hour to make you say “Fuck this, I’ll finish it tomorrow.”
- Enjoy your time away from work. When you do go out and spend some time with friends, don’t waste the whole evening fretting about how you should be back at home getting things done. Give yourself permission to do something unproductive, guilt-free. Remember, you are having fun for your own good.
- Reward yourself. If you can’t cut yourself any slack in any other way, at the very least reward yourself when you finish something big. When I worked at home for other people, I had to drop off my work once a week. Drop-off day was almost always my day off. I’d run by the shop at the beginning of the day, drop everything off, get my orders for the next week and then do f#^k-all nothing for the rest of the day. These days, working for myself, I take a day or two off after a big show and go get a massage to shake off all the craziness from the pre-show preparations. No matter what kind of work you do, there has to be some sort of milestone you can use to say “This is when I will take a break.”
Friends and Family
This has got to be the biggest complaint I heard when I asked people about working at home. Every single person I talked to had something to say about their friends and family. For some reason, when you say “I’m working at home” a majority of your listeners will hear “I’m
working at home.” You will get asked to do errands or just hang out and go to lunch. People will assume that it’s OK to just drop by since you’re, you know, just sitting around the house. It is constantly open season on your time. And these people, most of whom really do love and support you, will be a pain in the ass when you tell them you can’t. My favorite was when my husband would complain that I was always working when he got home and we didn’t hang out any more, and he was the one calling me during the day with a “Hey, I can’t leave the office. Can you do X, Y and Z for me?” (In all fairness, this didn’t happen all that often, but, if you are reading this dear, it did happen more than once.) There really aren’t many things you can do about this phenomenon, but here are a few:
- Just say “No.” You might feel like an ass because, after all, you technically could do whatever is being asked of you, but unless it is an emergency or a can’t miss opportunity – the kind of situation you would feel justified in leaving the office for – just say “I’m sorry, I have a lot of work I need to get done today.” Pretend you have an evil boss standing behind you as you say it, if it helps.
- Have a to-do list. If you have a set of goals you want to meet every day, it is easier to justify to yourself and others why you can’t be at their beck and call. “You want me to ______? I’m sorry, I need to have X,Y and Z done before dinner so I don’t get behind this week.”
- Hide your phone. Or screen your calls, or whatever. If it isn’t work-related, don’t answer. They can’t ask if you don’t pick up.
Frequent repetition seems to be the key here. These days, if Mr.B calls to ask a favor and I tell him I’m working, I can hear him weighing the importance of his request and he tries not to ask if it isn’t truly urgent. One of the greatest things about working at home, aside from the lack of pants, is that you do have more flexibility to help out if something comes up. However, you and your loved ones have to remember that working at home is WORK and get in the habit of weighing your choices. (BTW, not wearing pants can be a good way of discouraging unannounced visitors.)
I hope I haven’t made it sound like working at home is a terrible, stressful, lonely existence. I truly love it and it would take a whole lot to get me back working for the Man. It has its challenges, just like everything else, but if you can find a good balance it is a fantastic way to go.
In case you missed them, here are the first two posts about working at home: